Across the nation, law enforcement officers—despite facing unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic—are hard at work to ensure that animals who need their help are neither forgotten nor left behind.
Since the crisis began, our state directors have reached out to government officials to ensure that each state’s emergency orders cover the critical needs of animals in their jurisdictions, and that animal care and services providers are able to perform their duties. Fortunately, many states have designated animal control officers, humane agents and workers at animal care facilities and veterinary practices essential, ensuring there is no lapse in critical services.
Communities count on this help, and we deeply appreciate it, especially given that law enforcement officers face extraordinary challenges. Right now, agencies across the nation are short-staffed and under tremendous pressure. Many have lost available first responders to illness and quarantine and lack adequate personal protective equipment needed to carry on their work safely.
Despite these obstacles, we’ve heard many stories of selfless acts by law enforcement personnel, from officers coming up with plans of action to respond to critical situations, to others sleeping at their workplace to ensure they do not miss a beat when it comes to helping an animal in need.
In Maryland, Joy Wilson, animal control supervisor for St. Mary’s County, says her team has continued to investigate animal cruelty cases. Last week, one of her officers responded to a call for a dog at large that evolved into a cruelty case after the officer found several dogs left outside in the mud without protection from the weather
The dogs are now safe at a shelter, receiving proper care and a warm place to sleep.
Wilson’s team has not just continued important investigations: together, they are prioritizing help for animals in their community by providing critical resources like doghouses and food to families who have fallen upon hard times.
Chris Schindler, vice president of field services at Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, D.C., says his officers are eager to continue providing services to the District. And they are not giving up, even on a single animal. Last week, for instance, on her very first day on the road, HRA Animal Control Officer Amanda Wallace doggedly tracked down and leashed a very thin, scared dog who had evaded other officers for days. The dog, named Moby, is now safe and sound at HRA’s shelter.
HRA is also running a pet food pantry, with supplies donated by GreaterGood.org, to help out other shelters in the region.
In addition to providing critical physical resources, information sharing is an imperative. Our Animal Rescue Team continues to communicate with individual officers nationwide, offering guidance to those in the field and sharing our coronavirus toolkit. Scott Giacoppo, president of the National Animal Care and Control Association, says his organization too has created and distributed essential guidelines to help both animal control and police officers work collaboratively and safely deal with the crisis.
The HSUS has deep connections with law enforcement networks around the country, both through the work of our Animal Rescue Team, which assists local police departments with rescues, and through our Law Enforcement Training Center, where we train officers to investigate animal cruelty and fighting in their jurisdictions. These brave men and women have always had our deepest appreciation and it is heartening and inspiring to see their steadfast commitment to animal protection even as they fight on the front lines of a health crisis that has engulfed both people and animals around the world. We cannot thank them enough.